International Women's Day: Ekene Chioma Okpalauwaekwe

International Women's Day: Ekene Chioma OkpalauwaekweInternational Women's Day: Ekene Chioma Okpalauwaekwe

Ekene is our Payments Operations Manager and has been with Chipper for three and a half years. She’s based in Nigeria.

What inspired you to join the fintech industry, how did you land your first role within it, and how has your journey been so far at Chipper?

I vividly recall standing in endless queues at the bank, waiting impatiently to send or receive money. It was a cumbersome process, from getting an account number that could take up to a week or month, each step seemed like a marathon. It was these frustrations that sparked my journey into the world of fintech.

The pivotal moment came when I first encountered a digital wallet. Suddenly, the arduous trips to the bank became obsolete, replaced by the convenience of managing finances with just a few taps on my phone. This experience ignited a curiosity within me – how was this possible? What technology made it all happen? And most importantly, how could this digital revolution be extended to other sectors, empowering the unbanked and simplifying everyday transactions.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself at Chipper, a company at the forefront of fintech innovation. Collaborating on projects like launching virtual cards and implementing international payment systems has been both challenging and immensely rewarding.

If you could have a coffee with any influential woman who has made a mark in your world, who would it be and why?
It would  be the remarkable Dora Akunyili. You see, Dora wasn't just a figure in my world, she was a force of nature whose impact transcended boundaries. Her story resonates deeply with me because she embodied the essence of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to excellence.

Dora's journey, from battling corruption to transforming Nigeria's pharmaceutical industry, is nothing short of extraordinary. What intrigues me most about Dora is her fearlessness in confronting adversity. Despite facing several challenges to her life, she remained steadfast in her mission to uphold integrity and transparency. Her courage inspires me to never back down in the face of injustice and to always strive for positive change, no matter the obstacles.

I would cherish every moment of that coffee meeting with Dora Akunyili. Her legacy continues to inspire countless individuals, myself included, to dream big, stand tall, and make a lasting impact on the world around us.

One of our values at Chipper is Be Bold, where we are encouraged to be courageous in our innovation to solve the toughest of problems in order to deliver on our mission. Can you share a moment in your career where you’ve seized an opportunity to overcome a challenge?
Revamping the Know Your Customer (KYC) process was a pivotal moment in my journey at Chipper. At the time, we faced a challenge with our tiered withdrawal limits for Nigerian users. The existing structure only offered two tiers, with the highest tier capped at a set withdrawal limit within 24 hours. This limitation proved to be a hindrance for customers facing urgent financial needs beyond the set limit.

This hit close to home when I found myself in a similar situation, unable to withdraw the necessary funds for an emergency through the Chipper Cash app. It was a moment of clarity that sparked a determination to address the issue head-on.

I started conversations with key stakeholders to explore solutions to overcoming limitations of the existing KYC process. Through brainstorming sessions and customer research, we identified the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the tiered system to better align with user needs and regulatory requirements.

Implementing the changes demanded creative thinking, resourcefulness, and unwavering dedication from everyone involved. Now our customers have the flexibility to access higher withdrawal limits, empowering them to meet their financial needs with greater ease and convenience.

In hindsight, the journey to revamp the KYC process not only transformed our product offerings but also underscored the power of perseverance and collective effort in overcoming obstacles and seizing unexpected opportunities for progress.

Reflecting on your career, how have you seen the landscape change for women in Africa (and further afield) in fintech, and what positive trends do you see for the future?
There's been a notable shift towards greater inclusivity and empowerment. In Africa and beyond, women are increasingly taking on prominent roles and making significant contributions to the fintech industry.

One positive trend is the rising number of women entrepreneurs and leaders driving innovation in fintech. From founding startups to spearheading initiatives within established companies, women are playing pivotal roles in shaping the future of financial technology. This shift reflects a broader cultural change, where barriers to entry are being dismantled, and opportunities for women to excel are becoming more abundant.

Initiatives aimed at supporting and empowering women in fintech have gained momentum. From mentorship programs to networking events, these efforts are helping to create a more supportive ecosystem where women can thrive and succeed.

Looking ahead, I see even more positive trends on the horizon. As technology continues to advance and access to digital tools becomes more widespread, there's a tremendous opportunity to further empower women in fintech. I envision a future where women are not only equal participants in the industry but also leading voices driving transformative change.

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